J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

2nd Manassas

From August 28-30, 1862, the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) took place in Prince William County, Virginia.The battle between General Stonewall Jackson’s Confederate troops and General Pope’s Union forces resulted in a Confederate victory.

The first day of battle ended in a stalemate, and the second day nearly ended the same way, until C.S.A. General Longstreet’s army arrived to support Jackson. When Pope renewed his attack on August 30, Longstreet retaliated by sending his 28,000 Confederates to counterattack. It was the largest simultaneous mass attack of the war. The Yankees were driven back, and the battle nearly ended in a repeat of the 1861 battle, when the Union army literally ran back to Washington.

Last month marked the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), and was commemorated with a reenactment, living history demonstrations, speakers, art, music, and interactive historical activities. Since next year will be the sesquicentennial of 2nd Manassas, events will be slated in commemmoration as well.

Mascots and the War Between the States

We all know the important role that horses and mules played in the Civil War. They were essential to the mobility of armies. They pulled artillery caissons, carried officers, served as couriers, and of course, transported the cavalry. But besides equines, many other animals served in the War Between the States as well.

Soldiers were attached to their pets, and some brought along dogs, cats, and various domesticated livestock to the war front. They adopted squirrels, bears, birds, raccoons, and other wildlife as company mascots. Some unusual mascots included a badger, a camel, and a bald eagle known as “Old Abe,” which represented the 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers. General Lee kept a hen that dutifully laid an egg for him every morning.

Many of these special animals are immortalized in statuesque form, including General Lee’s horse, Traveller, General Grant’s Cincinnati, and General Stonewall Jackson’s Little Sorrel. Dogs are honored, too, including Sallie, mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania. Her likeness is carved in bronze on the regimental monument at Gettysburg. There are many other famous canines that accompanied their masters to the battlefield … and to their death. A few are even buried there. These include Jack, with the 102nd Pennsylvania Infantry, Old Harvey with the 104th Ohio, and Major with the 19th Maine.

Sacred Land For Sesquicentennial

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States, the Civil War Trust (CWT) recently announced that it is launching a national campaign to protect 20,000 acres of battlefields. This grand endeavor is planned to take place over the next five years.

The project was announced at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg by CWT Chairman Henry Simpson. Called the “Campaign 150 Initiative,” other board members present to make the announcement included Gettysburg Military National Park Superintendent Robert Kirby, Pulitzer Prize winning author James McPherson, and new member, country singing star Trace Atkins.

The CWT has protected over 30,000 acres in 20 states. Because this year kicks off the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, the time is rife for the CWT to take advantage of public awareness and support by making a large-scale initiative to preserve battlefield land across the country.

The Hunley Project

Eleven years ago, the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley was raised from the depths just off South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, and the mystery still remains as to why it sank. There has been much speculation, including the idea that the sub lost oxygen inside, thus causing the demise of the crewmen within her thick iron walls. (Their remains were put to rest during a Confederate funeral in 2004.) Another thought is that an explosion occurred after the Hunley rammed a spar with a power charge into a Union blockade ship, the Housatonic, in February 1864. The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship. It was a Confederate “secret weapon,” constructed in Mobile, Alabama.

In 1995, author Clive Cussler led a team of archeologists to the discovery of the Hunley. The submarine was found to be remarkably intact and well preserved, due to its being buried in sand and silt. The vessel was raised and delivered to Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where it remains today.

Recently, the hull of the sub was turned upright to reveal a side that hasn’t seen the light of day in 147 years, when the crew first entered the vessel. It took three days to turn the submarine. Approximately $22 million has been spent in the past fifteen years to preserve the Hunley. However, the investment has made its return, as several million people have visited the conservatory, where the Hunley rests in a tank-full of water. The next step will be to remove the overhead truss and straps that have been holding the vessel in place. The Hunley could be displayed in a museum as early as 2015.

Wilson’s Creek Reenactment

Sunday concluded the 150th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) near Springfield, Missouri. The event was a huge success, with approximately 3,500 reenactors participating, along with 31 cannons and over 400 horses on hand. Eye witnesses to the event proclaimed it as being “awesome” and “overwhelming.”

The actual battle, the first major one to take place in the Western Theatre of the Civil War, took place on August 10, 1861. Huge reenactments such as this are amazing, in that their depiction is true to life. The participants strive to make the events as historically accurate as possible. Spectators watched as battles played out before them. Some of the audience, as well as the soldiers, had ancestors who actually fought in the battle, which gave them a taste of what their great-great grandfathers experienced.

Other events that took place over the weekend included a period wedding, a military ball, and living history demonstrations. At the conclusion of the weekend, Yankees and Confederates were reunited once again in an atmosphere of goodwill.

Battle of Wilson’s Creek

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, or Oak Hills, as the Yankees called it. The battle was fought between Brig. General Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West and the Union army’s Brig. General Benjamin McCulloch. Over the course of the day, the Confederates attacked Union forces three times, but were unable to break through their line. The Confederates withdrew, but the Union army was low on ammunition and manpower, so they retreated. Because it was one of the first battles in the war, the Confederates were ill-equipped and disorganized, so they failed to pursue. They did, however, claim victory, and were able to secure Southwestern Missouri for the Confederacy. This was the first battle in which an officer was killed, that being General Nathaniel Lyon.

Today, the National Park Service is allowing free admission into the battlefield. Many exciting events are scheduled, including special tours, demonstrations, and access into the historic Ray House, which sets on the national battlefield. Tonight, a commemorative program will include period music, guest speakers, and Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon.

More info: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=268322436515581

This weekend, August 12-14, a reenactment is scheduled, which will include staged battles, tons of entertainers, a gentlemen’s duel, a fashion show (1861), a period wedding, a military dress ball, period baseball games, craft demonstrations, and an outdoor church service on Sunday.

More info: http://www.wilsonscreek150.com/Home.aspx

If you have never seen a reenactment, now is the time to go! They are fun, fascinating, and entertaining (similar to a Renaissance Festival, but of course, centered around the Civil War instead).

Battle of Cedar Mountain

Today marks the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Mountain, which took place on August 9, 1862 in Virginia. The battle led up to the Second Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run.

The battle took place near the town of Culpeper, which, during the course of the war, changed hands 78 times. Prior to the battle, General Robert E. Lee had secured the safety of Richmond in the Seven Days Battles. President Abraham Lincoln grew panicky, so he enlisted Major General John Pope to take over the Union army. After hearing Pope’s proclamations against Southerners, General Lee told General Stonewall Jackson, “I want Pope to be suppressed.”

Jackson’s 22,000 Confederate troops outnumbered Union General Banks’ 12,000, but still, they nearly lost the battle. At one point, Jackson attempted to draw his sword and lead the battle, but because it had rusted to the inside of the scabbard, he had to raise the scabbard, with the sword inside it, to rally his troops. He later said the battle was “the most successful of his exploits.”

Riverboats and the Civil War

It is a well-known fact that riverboats were essential to Southern commerce before and during the War Between the States. Southern states used rivers to transport cotton to the north, and one of the most heavily-used rivers was the Mississippi. Old Man River took his share, as there are still many riverboats sunken into the silt of the mighty, muddy Father of Waters.

The Union Army’s primary objective in the Western Theatre was to secure the Mississippi, thus strangling the Confederacy’s ability to trade and ship wares to various states below the Mason-Dixon Line. By the middle of 1863, the Yankees had accomplished this feat by capturing Vicksburg.

At the end of the war, riverboats were used extensively to transport released prisoners. One such boat, the Sultana, has virtually been lost to history, but her story is fascinating. Overloaded to around 2,400, with a maximum capacity allowance of only 376, the boat chugged her way up the Mississippi until it reached Memphis. A few hours later, as she made her way to Cairo, Illinois, carrying POW’s from Andersonville and Catalpa prisons, she exploded. Only a few hundred survived. Known as the worst maritime disaster in North American history, all that remains are a few markers, one of which is located at Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.

“The Conspirator” Soon to be Released

The latest directorial effort by Robert Redford comes out on DVD in two weeks. On August 16, The Conspirator will become available. The film portrays the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the consecutive events that lead to the first woman in America being hanged.

Mary Surratt ran a boarding house in Washington D.C. While at her boarding house, her son, John, a Confederate secret agent, and an aspiring actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth, came up with a plot to kidnap the president. This plot never formulated, because the Civil War ended, so instead, the two men, along with several others, decided to murder him instead. In the end, four conspirators were hung, one of which was Mrs. Surratt. Although she claimed to be innocent, public outcry won out. As to how involved she really was will always remain a mystery.

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